Complete Story

A Safety Heads Up

I just wanted to share with you a safety tip that I was informed of this past weekend while teaching at Tolles Tech. We were at Eitels Towing in Grove City teaching auto extrication. I was teaching with a couple of guys from Columbus and one of them asked me if we have had any incidents during auto accidents where a cell phone had back fed the 12v power system in a vehicle after the battery was cut. DO WHAT? That's what I said.

Well, believe it or not, there have been several incidents where rescue crews have cut the battery of a vehicle to prevent an air bag deployment and there was a cell phone plugged into the 12v power outlet in the vehicle. The battery on the phone back fed the system and allowed the air bag to deploy even with the battery cut.  There were no injuries as a result of any of these incidents which may explain why we haven't heard a lot about this.

Like any good fire fighters would, we tested it on one of the vehicles we were using for class. It was a 2001 Honda Odyssey minivan. We cut the battery and waited about 20 minutes. We plugged a cell phone into the power outlet and had some students wail on the front bumper with sledge hammers; nothing happened. We did not have the ignition turned to the on position which also apparently disables the airbag system in some Honda models. After turning it to the on position, we were able to set off the front airbag with the charge from the cell phone.

So I think it’s important that when de energizing a vehicle in an auto accident, we must disconnect the battery cables, remove the keys from the ignition, and try to make sure there are no battery powered devices plugged into the power system of the vehicle.

I wanted to share this. Some of you may have known this already; for those who didn’t, here’s your heads up. Be careful out there.

Lt. Jeff McIntyre
Westerville Division of Fire